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As the "Era of Good Feelings" under James Monroe came to an end in 1824, the old congressional caucus system or choosing presidential candidates had broken down. Four candidates towered above the others: John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, Henry Clay of Kentucky, William H. Crawford of Georgia, and Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. All four rivals professed to be "Republicans."
Jackson won the greatest number of popular votes, but because the vote was split four ways, he lack a majority in the Electoral College. The House of Representatives had to choose from the top three. Clay was thus eliminated. Yet as Speaker of the house, he presided over the very chamber that had to pick the winner.
Clay used his influence in the House to get Adams elected an in turn, Adams made Clay his Secretary of State.
Masses of angry Jacksonians raised a roar of protest against this "corrupt bargain." The clamor continued for the four years of Adams' Presidency.
A Yankee Misfit in the White House
Adam's entered his presidency with a brilliant record in statecraft, especially in foreign policy, however while he is ranked as one of the most successful secretaries of state, he became one of the least successful presidents.
Adams was further alienated when he asked Congress for additional money for internal improvements, aid to manufacturing, and even a national university and astrological observatory.
In 1828, Adams was able to piece together a new tariff law that generally satisfied northern manufacturers but alienated southern planters, who denounced it as a "tariff of abominations."
Going "Whole Hog" for Jackson in 1828
Jackson's followers presented their hero as a roughhewn frontiersman and a stalwart champion of the common man. They denounced Adams as a corrupt aristocrat and argued that the will of the people had been thwarted.
Jackson also smeared the president, accusing Adams' wife of being born out of wedlock. Adams's camp responded in kind, accusing Jackson's wife of adultery.
Jackson wins a landslide victory in 1828, with an electoral count of 178 to 83. He won with a reputation of a war hero and a man of western frontiers.
The Spoils System
Under Jackson the spoils system¬¬¬-that is, rewarding political supporters with public office-was introduced into the federal government on a large scale.
Scandal inevitably accompanied the new system. Men who had openly bought their posts by campaign contributions were appointed to high office. Often times illiterate incompetents, and plain crooks were given position of public trust.
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The Tricky "Tariff of Abominations"
A tariff bill that the Jacksonites had promoted in 1824 to give a black eye to President Adams was unexpectedly passed in 1828. This new tariff had outrageous rates and was greeted with protests, especially in the South.
In1828 South Carolina declared the "Tariff of Abominations" to be null and void within its borders, according to John C. Calhoun's Nullification Theory.
However Andrew Jackson was the wrong president to stare down, he issued a ringing proclamation against nullification.
Daniel Webster vs. Robert Haynes was a Senate battle where Webster attached the idea that any state could defy or leave the Union.
In 1833 the Congress squeezed through a compromise tariff and nullification and trouble were averted.
The Trail of Tears
In the 1790s, the Washington government recognized various Native American tribes as separate nations and agreed to acquire land from them only through formal treaties.
Among these Native nations were the Cherokee. The Cherokees of Georgia had made especially remarkable efforts to learn the ways of the whites. For their many efforts the Cherokees-along with the Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles-were known by whites as the "Five Civilized Tribes."
However in 1828 the Georgia legislature declared the Cherokee tribal council illegal and asserted its own jurisdiction over Indian affairs and land. The Cherokee appealed this move in the Supreme Court in the Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia case. The Court favored the rights of the Indians, but President Jackson wanted white settlement refused to recognize the Court's decisions.
In what became known as the Trail of Tears, Jackson forced the uprooting of more that 100, 000 Indians. This caused the death of thousands and the end of the "Five Civilized tribes."
The Bank War
President Jackson held the suspicion that the Bank of the United States abused its power and served the interest of the wealthy, also believed it to be unconstitutional.
The banks president the brilliant, but arrogant Nicholas Biddle, held an immense and to many an unconstitutional amount of power over the nation's financial affairs.
During the election of 1832 this was a large issue. Henry Clay tried to renew the charter of the Bank with a new bill. Jackson vetoed it and the voters agreed. Jackson being the idol of the masses easily defeated Clay in the election and was on to his second term.
The anti Masonic party also aroused around this time. It was opposed to the influence of the Masonic order and it appealed to long-standing American suspicions of secret societies.
Burying Biddle's Bank
With the charter denied the Bank of the United States was due to expire in 1836. But Jackson would not let it die in peace he managed to completely eradicate the federal deposits from the banks vaults.
The death of the Bank left a financial vacuum in the American economy. Surplus federal funds were put in several dozen state instituitions0the so called "pet banks." With the help of Sec. of Treasury, Roger Taney these banks flooded the country with paper money.
The Birth of the Whigs
The days of one-party rule were gone. Now two parties have emerged.
Jackson's Democrats who were much like Jeffersonian Republicans.
Clay's Whigs who resembled he defunct federalists.
The Election of 1836
After 2 terms in office Jackson decided to step aside and support Martin Van Buren of New York.
The Whigs nominated 3 candidates from 3 different regions hoping to have the election thrown to the House of Representatives.
This however failed; Van Buren won 58% of the electoral votes.
Big Woes for the "Little Magician"
Van Buren's four years overflowed with toil and trouble. A rebellion in Canada in 1837 almost triggered a war with Britain. Also antislavery agitators in the north were in full cry.
The Panic of 1837' was a symptom of the financial sickness of the times. Bank after bank kept closing and Van Buren tried to apply some medicine to the ailing economy through his "Divorce Bill." This championed the principle of separating the government from banking altogether. Whigs blamed the Democrats for the lousy economics and Van Buren was doomed.
Gone To Texas
After the Mexican Independence from Spain the new regime in Mexico City made plans to give a tract of land to Stephen Austin with the understanding that he would bring into Texas three hundred American families. They were to be Mexicanized.
By 1835 the Texan Americans outnumbered the Mexicans. The Mexican government, worried about the expanding Americans wiped out local rights and Santa Anna, the Mexican leader, started an army to defend Texas.
The Texans leader and ex-governor of Tennessee, Sam Houston, declared Texas's independence in 1836. Santa Anna swept throw Texas and wiped out the Texan forces. Sam Houston and his small army retreated to the east and lured Santa Anna. They then attacked and defeated Santa Anna's forces and captured the man himself. He was forced to sign the treaty that recognized Texas and an independent state.
Log Cabins and Hard Cider of 1840
With many American unhappy with the economy, the Whig party took advantage of this situation and organized around popular war hero, William Henry "Tippecanoe" Harrison.
The Whig campaign was a masterpiece of inane hoopla. Log cabin sprung up every where. And Whig campaigners, stimulated by cider, went around to many villages and campaigned.
Harrison swept most of the states and established the Whig party as a national party. However, one month after he died of a cold.
The Two Party Systems
The Democrats glorified the liberty of the individual and clung to states' rights and federal restraint in social and economic affairs as their basic doctrines. Whigs favored a renewed national bank, protective tariffs, internal improvements, public schools, and moral reforms.